I used to treat self-care the way I treated everything else: something to be squeezed into an already cramped day.  I treated my body as a tool that needed to be sharpened.  A machine that better not ever break down.  Or else. 

I told myself that exercise was a form of self-care. But while I was busy doing Romanian Deadlifts (which is a great move, by the way–I used to call it the Little Black Dress of weightlifting), my ego snuck in and quietly took over.  

A jog down memory lane…

One day I remember quite clearly.  I was just back from vacation.  I had moved through the stages of Vacation Grief and Loss and sat squarely in the “depression” phase.  In the rainy, pre-dawn fluorescence of the gym, my personal trainer led me to a non-motorized treadmill.  If you are not familiar, this sort of machine makes up for in hostility what it lacks in electrical power.  

The treadmill’s name, AssaultRunner Pro, and its product description let you know what you are in for: 

“Powered by your own stride, the AssaultRunner Pro matches your output and then pushes you to give even more.”

I feel like you just described my 30s, if not the better part of my adult life, Assault Fitness.  Thank you.  

The harder you run, the harder it pushes you.  And on this gloomy morning, the treadmill won.  I started hyperventilating and the tears came next.  

This is self-care?

AssaultRunner.  I’d actually forgotten that was this treadmill’s name until I looked it up to write this piece.  Or maybe, upon sad reflection, I accepted unquestioningly the punishing nature of my workouts as somehow beneficial or even superior.  The name AssaultRunner didn’t stand out to me at the time, because, at the time, it seemed about right.

The well-intended but off-the-mark self-care didn’t stop there.  I have spent many hours and dollars in the pursuit of self-care.  Fancy massages, facials, and pedicures.  Retail therapy.  Ice cream treats.  Wine rewards.  The list goes on.  Generally, they provided small hits of endorphins that felt good at the time, but the glow dimmed quickly.  

What had been missing from self-care is self-love.

I am now realizing that all of this is worth nothing, or nearly nothing if it does not come from a place of love for myself.

“It is not how much you do, but the love with which you do it.  It is not how much you give, but the love with which you give it.”

Mother Theresa

I am beginning to see how powerful these words are not just when expressed outward to the world, but inwardly towards oneself, as well.

Here are some reframes that have helped me turn anything from a workout to booking a doctor’s appointment into a satisfying act of self-care.  

  1. This is a celebration of me doing my best.  
  2. I am amazed at how much I have grown in the past 2 years, 2 weeks, 2 days, or 2 hours and I am celebrating that.
  3. I just learned what I am capable of, and it surprised the hell out of me.  Thank you.
  4. I realize that this life is shorter than we can fathom.  Depriving myself of some slack in the form of time, movement, or relaxation will not make the world a better place.
  5. My body literally works miracles every day.  It deserves to stand and stretch.  To sit and rest.  To be screened for ailments on a regular basis.
  6. I marvel at what is possible when my body, mind, and soul work together.  

I wonder how the AssaultRunner Pro is doing these days.  How many souls have been crushed by the power of their own weight on this machine with no motor?  Metaphorically speaking, that is.  For me, these days, it’s only self-care if there’s self-love.  Period.